Why Is It So Cold?

Growing Despite Grieving by Sheriden Broken Leg of Sinte Gleska University

Today, I woke up lost in thought, dreaming while awake. I kept my eyes closed in hope that my dreams wouldn’t leave my thoughts—that I could hold onto whatever sweet nectar slumber had given me for just a little longer. I don’t even roll on my side; I lay perfectly still. If I move, even an inch, the day will come flooding over me.

The orange glow of the sun is rising over the horizon. Its warmth and light shove the darkness back to wherever it goes during the day. Where does it go? Does it hide in waiting until the sun falls back over the other side of the world? Does it scatter to every corner and shadow that it can find? Our shadows are so much darker in the day. The sun’s warmth will be some relief, but why is it so cold in my apartment?

What was I dreaming of? I was running—not in fear but in freedom. My brothers and sisters next to me, we could smell fresh sage in the air. That was the last time we would run for freedom. We’d spend the rest of our lives running from each other, or to one another. My legs feel sore underneath three layers of blankets. Running, running, running. I hadn’t noticed the change in me, when running went from freedom to exhaustion.

Finally, I submit and roll to my side and check my phone. Early, too early to be waking up. It’s the middle of summer and my apartment is freezing cold. Why is it so cold in my apartment? These blankets only offer a sliver of comfort from the cold. Was it the blankets or the cold that felt so heavy on my chest? It’s pitch-black in my apartment and if I close my eyes, I swear I can see my breath when I breathe. I toss my phone in bed next to me, low battery.

I roll to my other side and look for my cup of water to subdue the dryness I feel in my throat. My cup is gone. I look around, unwilling to move too quickly and risk an inch of my fortress of warmth escaping into the air. It isn’t there. It must have fallen, I must’ve knocked it down while I was sleeping. I cough and some phlegm comes up from the back of my throat. I remove an arm from the blankets and reach over, grab a tissue, spit into it, and toss it into the garbage can next to my bed. Well, close to it.

I roll onto my back again and close my eyes. What I wouldn’t give to be dreaming again, running through a field with my siblings and friends, thinking about everything I’m going to do someday. Back then it was telling my crush I loved her and becoming a firefighter. It was getting a new pair of shoes for basketball and shorts that had a drawstring. It was about quitting smoking and getting a car that didn’t leak something new every month. Now my dream is getting out of bed before I’m late for my mother’s doctor’s appointment.

I roll back over and check my phone, it’s been about two minutes. I cough again and reach for my tissues. The box is empty. I grab it and toss it towards the garbage can. Why is it so cold in my apartment? Why are my legs so sore after a full night asleep? Why did my water spill? Why am I out of tissues? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why did I have to wake up and why did I stop dreaming?

I hear a knock on my door, the only sound in my utterly soundless apartment. The sun rising up over the horizon, I throw the blankets off me, kick my sore legs up, and sit up. The cold air consumes me and I put my cold feet onto the wet carpet next to me. I open the drawer on my bedside dresser I got at goodwill and pull out a different box of tissues. I blow my nose. Another knock. My back is aching, my ankle hurting, and my body cold. The knock on the door is the repairmen, here to figure out why it’s so cold in my apartment.

I could go and open the door and let them in, let them figure out the problem. I had to leave soon, otherwise I’d be late to pick up my mom and get her to her doctor’s appointment. My back arched, I put my head in my hands as I hear one more knock and then nothing. I have to get out of bed, shower, eat something, and leave. Whatever sweet taste from my sleep is slipping away.

I was dreaming, I was resting, I was content for a little while.

I throw myself back into my bed and feel warmth from those three layers of blankets seeping into my back. Why is it so cold in my apartment and so warm in this bed? I was too late to catch the repairman, I’m going to be late picking up my mother, and I’m too late to keep dreaming. Even the warmth that was there a moment ago feels like it’s fallen asleep and stopped being warm. I look at my hands and my fingertips look blue. I take one more deep breath and let the cold of my apartment consume me fully.

Xavier Wakinyan Jones (Cheyenne River Sioux) is a student at Oglala Lakota College where he is working towards a Bachelor of Social Work degree with a focus on chemical dependency.

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